Guest Post: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore by Duncan Milne
Suicide is serious. So is depression. And addiction too. These are issues severe enough to be social conditions not left as punch lines for the malicious or unimaginative.
The passing of Robin Williams has produced a tsunami of emotion, including the predictable condemnation of human frailty as well as various commentaries on suicide, addiction and depression. Pundits proclaiming how these conditions are signs of weakness, or selfishness, results of unrealistic expectations or outlandishly, manifestations of a left winged life style.
Irrefutable signs of a predictable outcome.
Obviously, this is because suicide and depression are only left wing issues, just like AIDS/ HIV only affects gay men (well… and also intravenous drug users from the 70’s) and just like addiction only affects the weak, the poor and the…well I don’t know, something else maybe left-handed people. Or is it color blindness?
I can’t say I agree with such an outlook, but it provides an excuse to vilify failure or draw false correlations to extraneous factors for those who stumble. Comments like “suicide is a result of socialism” or “God punishes you for [name the sin] by giving you [name the affliction]”. This represents a form of logic that seeks to take the control out of our hands and relieves us of any duty to help our fellow man.
Not to say that we carry a responsibility for every person that might walk past us, but it demonstrates that we have a choice of whom we want to be. The iconic band the Smiths, reminded us that it takes strength to be gentle and kind, yet we suffer for examples.
Far easier for media outlets to make jokes, ridicule and take the cheap laugh, its time to again take a cue from the Smiths and say “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” and tune out the TMZs and Rush Limbaughs of the world who are quick to politize issues such as depression, addiction or suicide to fit their own agendas. Not only is the logic flawed, but it also misses the point entirely. This is not an issue of political preference but a social problem. Human conditions cross gender, race, political view and sexuality. To see these problems as a joke or another label is to perpetuate the sigma that obscures a solution. Is this the reflection of humanity we want to see?
People like Donald Ritchie provide better guidance as an everyday hero. Donald minds The Gap, a suburb in Sydney, Australia’s most notorious suicide location; having intervened to save more than three people each year from taking their lives during his fifty-year residency. No judgment, no ridicule or social ostracization, just an offer of compassion to someone on the cusp of a fatal decision. Over one hundred sixty people saved at the cost of stopping to talk and the offer of a cup of tea.
Shouldn’t this be the model of behavior? A hallmark of humanity?
Addiction, depression and suicide takes many forms and has many causes. What is singular is the effect in taking people from us. It takes fathers and mothers, siblings, loved ones and children. It takes socialists and capitalists without regard for sexuality, race or belief. It takes the good and the bad and it takes indiscriminately with impunity.
Do you want to offer kindness or ridicule? Who do you want to be?
Left or right, gay or straight, depressed or jubilant; hopefully we’ll be remembered for the pleasure we’ve brought people, like Robin Williams, rather than like so many others who only incite vitriol and malice.
Pair with an ounce of tolerance, and Lonely Planet by The The from ‘Dusk’ and try to derive strength and resolve from the beauty around you.
Matt Johnson of The The says, “If you can’t change the world, change yourself”. Donald Ritchie has done both.